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Learning About Black Foodways for Black History Month

Last Updated on February 4, 2022

This February, to celebrate Black History Month and Black foodways, we want to do two things: Highlight some of the delicious recipes we’ve published from Black authors, and learn—and share what we’re learning—about the food of the African diaspora that abounds in Africa, the Caribbean, South America, and across America, Canada, and elsewhere across the globe.

Gaining a deeper understanding of the history of Black food here in America, is, to our mind, a great way to spend any month—but especially February, Black History Month. Learning about and tasting the amazing cuisines that trace their roots to Africa is a delectable experience, which we hope you’ll experience by trying some of the recipes below.

Learning About Black Foodways

There are numerous resources that explore the history of Black culinary traditions but these are a few that we especially enjoy.

High on the Hog

One of the best resources covering the history of the African-American food experience is Dr. Jessica B. Harris’s book, High on the Hog. Harris delves into the influences shaping  Black foodways—including slavery and racism, resilience and creativity, and more—and how those have impacted American culinary tradition.

The book was also adapted into an excellent Netflix series featuring chef and writer Stephen Satterfield. One of the first episodes of “High on the Hog” even features Harris and Satterfield in Benin, tracing the West African roots of many of the dishes that are Black food staples of the American South. You can also watch an interview with Harris about the show and Black cuisine.

Michael Twitty’s Afroculinaria

Michael Twitty is a culinary historian and one of the leading voices on both African-American food history and the Jewish culinary tradition. His TED talk entitled, “Gastronomy and the social justice reality of food” is a masterclass on culinary appropriation and culinary justice.

Twitty is best known for his book, The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South, which won multiple awards including the prestigious James Beard Foundation Award for Book of the Year in 2018. In The Cooking Gene, Twitty digs deeply into the history of black food, similar to High on the Hog, but with an added drive to know more about himself as he uncovers Black cooking history. As he explains, “If you’re African American, the urge to know your parts and origins is intense.” And so in the book he tries to go beyond storytelling by trying to actively recapture and reclaim Southern culinary traditions through the act of cooking. Twitty writes, “To go beyond assumptions; to interrogate our pain; to see the faces of my ancestors, to cook with them, to know them intimately the only way I can know them after decades of memory loss—those are my paths.” 

You can also dive deeper into Twitty’s thinking and writing on his site, Afroculinaria. 

Recipes and History

Ramin Ganeshram shared a recipe for Trinidadian “Buccaneer” Chicken Thighs with Just Cook in July. Ganeshram is also a prolific writer, editor, and historian whose work includes the book, America I AM Pass It Down Cookbook: Over 130 Soul-Filled Recipes and Sweet Hands: Island Cooking from Trinidad & Tobago. Ganeshram authored a historical fiction novel, The General’s Cook, about Hercules, the cook and slave of George Washington. Amazingly, Ganeshram may have solved a historical mystery about the real Hercules whose legend she uses as the foundation of her story.

Some of Our Favorite Recipes from Black Authors

Countertop View of Haitian Soup Joumou

Haitian soup joumou in a pot

 

ButcherBox People Operations Manager Idora Solpin-Vilme shares her reminiscences of watching and helping her mother cook Haitian “Freedom Soup.” The soup is traditionally part of New Year’s celebration that coincides with the liberation of Haiti from France, but it is both warming and hearty and can be enjoyed any time of year.

Nigerian Chicken Suya Skewers and Nigerian Beef Jollof Rice

suya skewers

 

Ozoz Sokah is a Nigerian-Canadian food writer and culinary historian who shares foods and recipes of the African diaspora. She runs the blog Kitchen Butterfly and is a champion for Nigerian food across the globe. She shared here Chicken Suya and Beef Jollof Rice recipes with Just Cook.

A Dish with Joy in Every Bite: Griot Pork and Pikliz and Peri Peri Chicken with Coconut Rice 

griot and pikliz

 

Margo Gabriel has a knack for sharing mouth-watering dishes paired with amazing stories. She gives a bit of the history behind peri-peri—an African pepper-based sauce in this chicken and coconut rice recipe. But it is the classic Haitian dish of griot pork with pikliz, pictured above, that is so good you’ll likely finish eating the dish before you’re done reading its history.

Gampy’s Gumbo: From the South to San Francisco

bowl of seafood gumbo

 

This family recipe is dear to our copywriter, Camille McDaniel. It is the dish perfected by her late grandfather Herman and, although Camille shares it here, she leaves out some of the family secret details to safeguard the cherished recipe.